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Law Firm Management Café (picture by artists present)

IBA World Cafe Bild 1







Chris Vaagt has facilitated the first "Law Firm Challenges & Opportunities Café" at the Annual Conference of the IBA, together with David Morley, Senior Partner of Allen & Overy.

The Law Firm Challenges and Opportunities Café, which has taking place Tuesday 08 October 09:30 - 12:30, in BALLROOM B, THIRD LEVEL, Hynes Convention Center  offered an exceptional learning opportunity for Managing Partners of law firms.

Based on the observation, that the coffee breaks are usually the moments where participants make the most for themselves, this session was offering high quality time, with the possibility to exchange ideas and expose experience unseen before at the IBA.The extraordinary session format, based on the findings of the quality supervision group of the IBA, offered a departure from the traditional panel sessions.

It was a must for all officers who want to experience and learn a new session format which is also available to themselves, and which would open up completely new interaction among the members of its' committees.

All the issues which are confronting law firm partners all over the world today have been discussed at this workshop. Based on the identification of the major challenges, and then looking on the opportunities they represent, Law firm partners learned from each other by comparing their experiences with those of other colleagues. Furthermore, by choosing thought-provoking strategic choices, they experienced a completely new perspective for their own law firm. Finally, they reflected upon the “take home” of this session, the implications for their own law firm, and the resources they have in order to confront, and finally successfully master, change.

Law Firm Challenges and Opportunities Café, proposed by the Law Firm Management Section – at IBA Boston 2013 – 

IBA Boston Cafe round 3

Report by Jaime Fernández Madero, Buenos Aires

There was a great deal of excitement and intrigue towards this new experience in the IBA. As expected from a forum composed by lawyers, the IBA meetings are normally very structured conferences where prepared presentations and panelists are the rule. This poses a great pressure on panelists and speakers, since keeping an unrestful audience of lawyers armed with Blackberries and Ipads is an enormous challenge.

However, lawyers like to speak and interact, and are always anxious to listen at what other colleagues have to say about topics of interest. And that was the wisdom of proposing a World Café session, where structure would be minimal and freedom of expression the main purpose.

Just entering the Ballroom B on the Third Level gave you a totally different image from any other IBA session. The lights were dimmer than normal, only round tables, no podium or panels, lots of coffee to pick on the side, and a couple of artists painting interesting images in a big paper board in the front. Chris Vaagt and David Morley, as masters of ceremony, were giving welcome like it was their own homes to the somewhat startled lawyers who adventured into the room. Is this really the IBA?

People from all continents gathered around tables in order to exchange ideas and experiences from their own practice and professional lives, around a strategic or management question related to challenges, opportunities and success factors in the legal profession, as each participant has experienced it from his or her particular perspective. Various tables offered different standpoints of observation: international firms, full service firms, franchises, tech driven firms, legal outsourcing, mature markets, super markets, domestic markets and single law firm.

Each table had a host or moderator, who coordinated the discussion and also kept a certain consistency and continuity, when members would jump from table to table. Three twenty-minute sessions allowed participants to change tables and get exposure to different conversations and perspectives.

Discussions were very lively. People were clearly engaged in what was going on, and confirmed one of the premises of this session: people already know what they need to know; it is just that they need to talk about it with other people to realize that. The pure exercise of exchanging ideas and experiences brings to surface our own knowledge and makes it better and richer when exposed to other´s views.

The first part of the morning was closed with a brief report from the table hosts of what happened in each table, and was artistically exposed in a wonderful drawing which showed that even the most rational concepts can be explained from a beauty perspective.

The second half of the session became even more challenging. Given all the information exchanged before, how could things be done different or better to overcome challenges and difficulties? More time was given on this assignment and conversations became intense and passionate.

But the clock is merciless and the morning went by. The session ended with a satisfying feeling of having shared a productive time with colleagues from around the world discussing topics of mutual interest. Nobody was left out and active participation was universally required. There is no better way of feeling a sense of being part of something than having the opportunity of giving something of ourselves, while receiving the same from others. This is what the World Café Session brought as new to the IBA and, hopefully, will continue to do in future conferences. For a while, Blackberries and Ipads were shut down.

Comments by participants on the first IBA Law Firm Management Café

„Speed dating with substance”

“Panels are dead”

“I was surprised how quickly the participants caught on to the approach, and the excellent insights they gave.  We covered a lot in a short amount of time.”

“This is the best session ever which I have attended at an IBA event!”

(Based on survey done immediately afterwards)

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